The Secret to Team Spirit

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We’ve all seen some teams, whether in sports, music or business, whose performance transcends the normal. It’s as though the team members have each surpassed any personal performance limitations and are cooperating at some unseen energetic level. What is the key to team spirit and can we intentionally create it?

As a leader of project teams, I admit that I can get impatient with the slow process of team development, as they go through the classic stages of forming, storming, norming and finally performing. And even when they make it through these stages, the team bond is often only a surface level cooperation. It isn’t enough to achieve the miraculous performance that some teams manage to attain. The good news is that science has discovered the secret to team spirit, showing how it leads to greater performance and how to facilitate it.

What’s the Crucial Element of Team Spirit?

There is literally an electromagnetic field that surrounds a team and connects all members. This field can be scientifically detected and is comprised of the energy emitted by the heart of each member. When this field is strong and emotionally positive, it boosts the performance of each member, actually making them cognitively smarter and more creative. It also facilitates an unseen communication among all members that fosters cooperation. This field is quite literally the team’s spirit.

The key to exceptional team spirit is the emotional bond between the members. If there are seven members on a team, the team’s field will be strongest when each member feels a reciprocated emotionally positive connection with each of the other six members. Elite teams pay close attention to this emotional unity. Only some teams form this type of connectivity, but can it be intentionally cultivated?

How can You Nurture Emotional Unity in a Team?

Creating emotional team events can spark an exceptional team spirit. I remember attending a leadership retreat shortly after I joined a large corporation. We had all been asked to send in two pictures of our family prior to the retreat. As we walked into the meeting room the first morning, the family photos were being displayed, set to emotional music such as We May Never Pass this Way Again. We all became engrossed in watching the pictures, with nobody saying a word. I recall that I had been talking with someone while walking down the hall, but as soon as I felt the energy in the room, all I could do was get caught up in the moment. The emotional connection that this formed between us sparked a bond that lasted many years and fostered many triumphs.

I often do something similar with project teams. Each member is asked to put together ten to fifteen slides that depict “what moves their soul” or “what gives their life meaning”, along with a descriptive caption that appears on the slide. We call it “Pecha Kucha”, which originates from a Japanese event where pictures are shown in rapid succession. In a team setting, each person’s slides are shown, with each slide being displayed about six seconds. People usually include photos such as their wedding day, their children or pets, social causes they care about, and memorable occasions such as hikes with friends or special vacations. When we have these Pecha Kucha events and people see their teammates’ heartfelt pictures, it has a way of melting away any animosity or pettiness that exists between them. They instantly feel a deeper bond, and the more emotional the pictures, the deeper the bond.

Emotional events can also be heartfelt discussions among team members. Like many businesses, we have periodic team reviews, where teammates review how they’re doing. The key is getting people to really open up, to share their deepest thoughts, and they often need a role model. I recall one situation where there were ten people on the team, and we had been halfway around the circle, but the discussion had only been typical, superficial business talk. Then it was my turn. I opened up, sharing my deepest fears about our inability to satisfy some customers, as well as my jubilation about certain accomplishments. I expressed my emotion so authentically that we all felt something shift in the room. Following my lead, the rest of the team found it possible to express their deepest emotions, and we all left the room feeling the greater connection. This team became the one most sought after by customers.

Left on their own, teams may develop these kinds of emotional bonds over time. But why chance it, and why delay it? Help them get emotional and create that team spirit that we all crave.

As we learn more from neuroscience about the incredible power of group emotions, we see reasons to adopt techniques beyond the ordinary. For more on shaping team emotions to increase creativity and performance, including research references, get notified of the upcoming book Primal Teams: Harnessing the Incredible Power of Group Energy or sign up for a monthly summary of articles.


About the Author:

Jackie Barretta is a writer, speaker and consultant helping organizations strengthen agility and performance by shaping emotional energy. She is a thought leader bringing to light the new science of group emotional energy and connecting it to business performance. She has had a 28-year award winning career as a C-level Fortune 500 executive and Big Four consulting firm professional.
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  1. Kaganga John  June 16, 2012

    Dear Jackie Barretta,you have presented to us a very amazing work you are doing through your article and your eBook you wrote,we really need great connection to achieve our goals in team work.

    Once those secrets to team spirits and the crucial elements of the team spirits,then it is necessary to nature emotional unity in a team work.This subject matter is also related to story telling where by one come to know his or her potential but here you come to know the teams potentials and then try to maximise it to achieve the goals one want.

    What you are doing would be very much beneficial to mostly we people in developing countries because we still have a big gap in knowing the secret in team spirit,that is why we are still lagging behind in sustainable development,we move ten steps in front then move fifteen behind,that is why our resources which would make us develop is wasted through wars,causing violence,we are ever in conflicts,corruption, selfishness and greed is order of the day

    I think we need to forge a way forward and see how you can contribute to changing our attitudes in developing countries through that programme,we need your connectivity

    Kaganga John


    Kikandwa Environmental Association-Uganda

    Phone;+256 772 494697 /256 772 67 46 47

    Email; /


  2. Abigail G.  June 17, 2012

    Very nice article Jackie. I’ve often found that the existing team spirit, starts with the head of the team and permeates the rest of it.

  3. Daniel Menges  June 17, 2012

    While I’m a bit sceptical about some of the theory behind what they are suggesting (I think it is more complex and mysterious…), I can relate to the experiences that the author writes about. I wish more organisations spent the time and created the right frameworks/guidelines, processes and conditions to support conscious and positive team spirit.

  4. Hans Liszikam  June 17, 2012

    Hi Jackie.There is a great deal more to it that what I have presented here and entire books have been written about this subject.
    The key to this is located in the three lower chakras. Fig hot flight, life force, survival, physical strength family and teams are in the base. Power, creativity, control, money and sexuality in the spleen. Self esteem, confidence, aggression and fighting spirit are in the solar plexus chakra. If team member/s are adversely affected in any of these areas, they will not give their best performance which can drag down the rest. In teams there is generally no room for individualism, everyone is expected to give their best for the teams success, even when they perform at their personal best it is for the team, it is still the entire team that benefits. Olympians, although they often perform as individuals, at the end of the day, they represent their country, their team, their family.
    A unified team spirit it not always present, and when this happens, that team is most likely to lose the competition they are involved in. Of tem a term known as bonding is used to bring a team together in body and spirit. It also involves a great many hours of training so each one knows the others next step or move. Often when an event is lost, the entire tram gets the blame but certain individuals usually are targeted by the other members and get the blame. This can turn into a negative energy vibration affecting the entire team spirit.

  5. Dionne Lew  June 17, 2012

    Abigail I’ve also seen that ‘the leader sets the tone’ however I must say that keeping teams together can be challenging in particular if they are geographically dispersed and when there are so many personalities. I think this is one of the most difficult areas of leadership to tackle.
    It’s also interesting the different expectations on you as a leader – some team members are very independent and others enjoy having input into every detail of their work.
    I think it’s a big challenge personally working out team dynamics and I am thinking less about managing big teams and more about collaborating with small groups of strategic thinkers going forward.

  6. Kate McNeil  June 25, 2012

    Landmark education has some resources on this (available through its Communication courses). I am a little skeptical about reliance on this idea of an emotional bond between team members. I have seen teams perform well with no such bond evident, with a sense of common purpose being the key determining factor. I study energetic medicine and these fields are now better understood but the ways of creating them will depend on the energetic makeup of the people involved.
    The steps I have been trained in for team performance (loosely adapted) are 1) how the team members relate to each other 2) a common goal that is bigger than the individual ego/fears of its members 3) each member having a personal commitment or having a personal investment in the outcome 4) sufficient feasible opportunities to fulfil on the team goal (which brings in resources and potential pathways) and 5) a working framework for completing and reporting outcomes. And these are holographic, not linear. Trying to make them linear is what makes management so stressful.


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